Mauliola: The Holy Trinity of "Maoli Art"
As seen in discussion group "Maoli Artists and Creative Masterpieces"
By Hale Mawae
I first want to mahalo Ikaika, for bringing up such an intuitive topic to the table, and agree with him on his definition of what really is maoli art. I think the term "maoli art" goes far deeper and is a much broader spectrum of creative artists in our kanaka maoli community. Maoli art is something clearly defined as being kanaka maoli artists or Native Hawaiian artists taking the creative mediums that are available to them in today's society, and incorporating it into a creative art form that is definitively kanaka maoli.
Meaning, that the manner of inspiration derives from cultural and spiritual essences that divide ourselves apart from traditional Western styles of art and art forms. Then taking that cultural and spiritual inspiration to drive your creation into a style that represents your own manner of art/life as a kanaka maoli, and your own maoli passion for the type of artistic expression you create. Whether that creation is pencil sketching or a digital creation on Adobe Illustrator. An oli kahea or a slam poetry spoken word poem. A traditional style hula or modern contemporary dance. Whether it's a lauhala mat or an oil on canvas. A mo'olelo, or a dramatic stage or film presentation with a whole cast of actors.
But to define it more personally for myself in my creative process as a maoli artist, when I create a piece of maoli art, I first start with the many akua. The akua, who give me the foresight, inspiration, and vision for my work. They guide my inspiration and imagination into form and craft. They obliterate the many borders and obstacles that creativity encounters. They create a limitless canvas of immense proportion. The akua giving value to your vision. Spiritual sustenance to your craving artistic mind. Our akua carrying our thoughts and imagination into the heavens and asking it for permission before sending it colliding back down to our honua.
They take us on our spiritual journeys beyond the horizon to the many sacred places of our own vast mind. Akua are the driving force for our imagination. They drive our spirit and give it gifts for fruition in our physical creative world. They are a reminder of inspiration of our great romances through life, our art only being an imitation of that life. The creation of both light and dark. The creation of life itself. The greatest tales of love and of tragedy; of mischief and great victory. These are the lives of our many great Akua that give us guidance for our work, and we thank them gratefully. Mahalo e na akua o keia 'aina.
Second, I find inspiration from our aumakua. They open all the doors and windows to our piko and keep an open the path to our connection to our many akua. They show us the road around the obstacles. But they also show us the many riches along the path in encountering those obstacles. The kaona to what you are really seeing in your creative mind when you journey along the path of creation. Giving us clues to the hidden meaning to why the inspiration is coming to you when it does, translating the language of akua into a form that is literate and meaningful to us as kanaka. The aumakua watching your work closely with careful guidance and rich precision.
While akua give you the vision and passion to create, the aumakua is the energy moving between your artistic eye and the canvas of life The aumakua is the the dip of the brush into the amalgam of color on the pallet to each fluid stroke across the empty page. Aumakua is same kind of calming patience the Ni'ihau people use to pick and clean every kahelelani shell, which then moves on to the same patient string and needle. Mahalo e na aumakua.
I believe the third defining element of maoli art is our kupuna. Our kupuna both past and present. They are the physical aspect of our art. They are the reason to create. We all become kupuna, such as our work as artists. Our art is a reflection of ourselves, and so our creations become kupuna and ultimately a reflection of ourselves when we cease to exist in this physical world. Our kupuna remind us of this and to stay humble and regard your work with some reproach. They remind us of why we create. They ask us "what is it's necessity and purpose? How does this represent you, and why should this represent us and serve us a people of kanaka maoli descent?" Our kupuna ask these questions while we create but they never expect an answer. Just so they know that you know the questions and that you deeply reflect on them and your culture. Because they know that the answer is ongoing and fluid. It is like the many hula halau with many distinct styles of hula. 'A'ohe pau ka 'ike i ka halau ho'okahi. In this we find clarity of thought from our kupuna. we find definitive direction, purpose, and cultural integrity to create. Kupuna giving us the direction to the many aumakua and our physical connection to that sacred source. Our kupuna leaving us with the desire, passion, and kuleana to continue on our path to artistically express and create. Mahalo e na kupuna.
Haina ia mai ana ka puana la i ka hana no'eau la. Tell the refrain of my creative process to maoli art. I hope that by giving examples of my process as a creative artist it will help to expand the frame of mind and consciousness for other maoli artists. Art is a deeply engaging process for me. This is my way of expanding into the universe and grabbing at those connections to make my art meaningful to me and more importantly to our fellow kanaka i ka wa ma hope, i ka wa ma luna.